The Week's 'Lost' News Isn't Here

photo: bistro louis-philippe

Last week's rainy-day look, in front of the
Café Louis-Philippe.

Plus Sports 'News' That Isn't

Paris:- Sunday, 4. April 1999:- If there is 'good' news this week I will try to find it. My task has been made considerably lighter because I've 'lost' 40 percent of my source - somebody has nicked my copies of last Tuesday's and Wednesday's Le Parisien.

These were Paris editions too and I distinctly remember reading them on the train coming back on those days - but they are not here now. Nor do I remember what I read.

Look - it is Easter Sunday today, and I shouldn't even be doing this; I should be out looking for Easter Eggs in the Marly Forest. If the union finds out, I'll be fined, or worse - forced to take time off!

Other People With Time Off

These are the unemployed and they managed to increase their numbers last month despite all of the government's usual massaging of figures. The big plus: 7,900 new unemployed.

Unemployment has been dropping for months so it is not exactly fair for me to point out this infinitesimal rise. I did not report the earlier drops because I thought the numbers were too insignificant; just like this month's rise.

The percent rate has gone up a tenth ofphoto: spiral stairs, louis-philippe a point to 11.5 of the working population; and this represents 2,903,800 people who are out of work and searching for new jobs. This figure is down from a high of 3,127,000 in 1997.

Of the total number of unemployed, about 38 percent are considered to be long-term - which I think includes everybody who has been searching for work for over a year. What no figures show, are the number of people who have given up being registered as 'looking for work.'

The very narrow stairway to the Louis-Philippe's upstairs dining room.

The rate of unemployment for youths under 25, has dropped more - about 18 percent - as a result of a variety of make-work efforts and loosening of the labor laws.

The government's 'big policy' of the 35-hour work week is not universal, so nobody really knows if it will create more jobs. What seems certain, the 35-hour week will force flexibility into hourly structures; requiring workers to be more nimble while allowing employers to set up work-schedules for seven-day weeks.

One result has already been noted by statistics: many salaries are now below the minimum wage.

Euro 'Bio-Food' Fraud

In crowded Europe many consumers are acutely aware of the quality of the food they eat and in the last several years there has been a major movement towards products that are labelled 'bio,' as in 'natural,' rather than heavily fertilized.

For some reason - subtract the cost of fertilizers, but add 'supply and demand' - 'bio' products are more expensive. This has given bright ideas to some people who think getting double the price for a product is a better way of crime than robbing banks.

Take a certain 4,500 tons of wheat, grown quite normally in Saône-et-Loire. A Belgian grain dealer bought thephoto: rain, louis-philippe lot and had it shipped to a branch of his Belgian firm, located on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. There it was relabelled as 'bio' and its origin was changed to Romania.

Part of the Louis-Philippe's terrace - all deserted.

Its fake German certificate of origin was recertified by a Dutch dealer and the load was handed over to a French shipper, who barged it through the canals to Marseille. There it was loaded onto a ship and carried to Bordeaux, where it was finally controlled by agents of the DGCCRF - or consumer fraud squad.

Result: 4,500 tons of ordinary French wheat worth about 80 centimes a kilo, but with the 'bio' label, worth between 1.60 and 1.80 francs a kilo. Think of all the transport costs, all the paperwork, all the time the capital was tied up - and then figure out the profit to all concerned. It's beyond me.

Meanwhile, At the Supermarket

Perfectly legally, the price of a bottle of name-brand mineral water can vary between 2.25 and 4.90 francs in the Paris area. The difference depends on whether you buy it in a colossal hypermarket, or a small neighborhood grocery store.

'Bio' is not an issue here, but markup is. A five-kilo sack of potatoes can vary in price between 4.90 and 35 francs. No decimal was left out; that is a price difference of 614 percent.

This was found out by comparison shopping around France by testers for the consumer magazine, 'Testez Pourphoto: rue des barres, paris 4 Vous' recently. They took a shopping list of 236 items, which included 88 'no-brand' products, to 681 shops and filled up their shopping carts.

The report doesn't mention the high and low amounts for this basket of goods, but did say that the small shops are 29 percent more expensive in general. Prices also vary between any kind of shop with the same name, with one hypermarket chain having variations between outlets of as much as 14 percent.

From Rivoli, come down to the Louis-Philippe by way of the Rue des Barres.

Another interesting number is 39,000 francs which is supposed to be the average consumer's total spending per year at the hypermarkets. It doesn't say this is for a family and it doesn't say this is the total food bill - the total may be higher.

Sports 'News'

A Grand Prix circuit in Marne-la-Vallée, just to the east of Paris? Ex-champion Alain Prost thinks it may be an April Fool's joke. In fact, nobody in racing, nobody inphoto: traditional bread the Seine-et-Marne department administration and nobody at Disneyland which is located in Marne-la-Vallée, believes in it.

But, In February, six men with no names met in a Michelin-rated two-star restaurant in Paris' 17th arrondissement to discuss the plan, according to Le Parisien.

The idea of holding Formula One Grand Prix racing in or near Paris has been floating around for years. One idea was to use the Champs-Elysées and the Seine's banks, but this has always been pure smoke. Other, existing, racetracks are just too small.

A study was apparently commissioned, and after rejecting every other possibility, it was left with Marne-la-Vallée as its conclusion. It is close to the A4 autoroute, served by a RER line, close to a TGV station, close to Disney's hotels, equidistant from Roissy and Orly - all that seems to be required is a big, unused, potato field. Plus between 600 and 800 million francs.

The six men with no names could possibly put it together, but the problem would then be finding ways to keep the track from being idle - as only one Grand Prix race a year is ever run at a single track.

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